Hutchison, who faces Gov. Rick Perry and businesswoman Debra Medina in the March 2 Republican gubernatorial primary, addressed a crowd estimated at up to 400 by Doris Thomas, who helped organize the event.
The senator named four main issues of concern to her—education, transportation, private property rights and “cronyism.” She also cited several disagreements with Perry on various issues.
“My number one priority will be education,” Sen. Hutchison declared. “Thirty percent of our young people go into high school and do not graduate,” she said, adding she would “fix” that situation.
She additionally expressed support for community colleges, technical training, and asserted Texans “need to revere our teachers.” Sen. Hutchison said Perry had vetoed a bill to put a retired teacher on the state’s teacher retirement board, but “I will sign that bill.”
In discussing transportation, she blasted the Texas Department of Transporatation (TxDOT), pledging to reform it and arguing that reelecting Perry wouldn’t result in reform.
“TxDOT is the most arrogant state agency,” Sen. Hutchison charged, praising its workers, but adding that “it is the leadership at TxDOT that is failing.”
She also said Perry “thinks that tollways are the right way to go. I don’t.”
In addition, Sen. Hutchison said she wanted to allow the state highway commission to make policy.
Concerning private property rights, she said the Texas Farm Bureau had endorsed her after “Rick Perry failed them” by vetoing a bill which would protect private property owners.
She additionally assailed “cronyism,” which she said involved lobbyists who had gone into the governor’s office before “making sweetheart deals.”
Sen. Hutchison also said during the 12-minute address that “the first thing I will ask the legislature to do” is approve a proposed Constitutional amendment for term limits.
Perry, who has served longer as governor of Texas than any of his predecessors, is seeking a 4-year term that would give him 14 years in office. Sen. Hutchison argued that “Fourteen years is too long for any person to have” so much “power.”
The senator also briefly touched on a number of other issues.
She faulted Perry for trying to have young schoolgirls take a vaccine against a sexually-transmitted disease when, she said, the vaccine had not yet been approved for use.
In addition, she said she had an “A-plus rating by the NRA (National Rifle Association) because I believe in gun rights.”
The candidate additionally cited the state’s economic climate.
“275,000 people lost their jobs in Texas last year. This is not a good time,” Sen. Hutchison asserted.
And she said she had “a lot of Aggie support” from those who dislike the “meddling” Texas A&M has undergone—an apparent criticism of Perry.
During a brief impromptu news conference after the speech, she said she rejected criticism by Perry’s campaign that she had supported the federal bailout and other federal spending.
She said Perry alternates between contending that she doesn’t bring enough federal money to Texas, and saying she brings too much.
“My job is to protect Texas,” said the senator, arguing that if she had turned down federal funds, other states would have received the money.
The candidate also said Perry had increased taxes for Texas business and “he’s hurt business in this state.” In addition, she said she fought his effort to put the Trans-Texas Corridor into East Texas.
Asked about abortion, Sen. Hutchison said she would “curb” it in Texas and promote adoption. Although she has been quoted as indicating she doesn’t want to overturn the controversial Roe vs. Wade decision that allowed legal abortion, she said she had a 94 percent approval rating from National Right-to-Life and considerable support from right-to-lifers.
Mrs. Hutchison, who was in Vernon, Wichita Falls and Texarkana earlier in the day, was accompanied by State Rep. Rick Hardcastle of Vernon, who spoke briefly.
Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd drove her to the meeting from the Gilmer airport and introduced her.
She recognized an old friend she had known in Dallas, Pritchett resident Doris Thomas, and received, among other gifts, an East Texas Yamboree tee-shirt. The Union Grove High School band was among those providing musical entertainment.
Sheriff Betterton, a Hutchison supporter, was emcee for the rally, which had earlier featured speeches by several candidates for Upshur County public and GOP party offices. Candidates from any political party were permitted to speak.
Among those attending was Smith County Sheriff J.B. Smith and Sixth Court of Appeals Chief Justice Josh Morriss, who faces Gilmer area attorney H.D. Bailey for Morriss’s post in the March 2 GOP primary.